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Interview with Foreign Minister Westerwelle in the Welt am Sonntag Issues: Ambassadors Conference at the Federal Foreign Office, EU, Middle East, Bundeswehr

05.09.2010 - Interview

“On every steamer or sailing ship there’s someone calling the shots. And that someone is me” – that’s how you once described the hierarchy within the FDP. Does this also apply to the Federal Foreign Office, Mr Westerwelle?

Leadership is a crucial part of politics, whether you’re party leader or a minister. But it’s also true that you have to shoulder a special responsibility and stand by your decisions.

Let’s start with leadership. You’ve invited 200 German ambassadors from all over the world to Berlin from Monday. Which political directives will you give them?

Two guiding principles are especially important to me. Firstly, the global commitment of our diplomats should always be guided by peace, disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Is that a wise priority? Other countries are the major players in disarmament – those with nuclear weapons.

Nuclear non-proliferation is a challenge for humanity, just like climate protection. We have to prevent more and more states from acquiring nuclear weapons, for that would increase the risk of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Naturally, this goal can only ever be achieved in alliance with others. However, Germany contributed to the success of the non-proliferation conference in New York, just as it did to the most recent round of sanctions against Iran.

What’s your second guiding principle?

Shaping Europe’s future role. Many people regard the Union first and foremost as an insurance policy to guarantee prosperity. And it is that, too. However, it is primarily a union for peace and freedom which must not be allowed to fail. That’s the real reason why we undertook such massive efforts to protect the euro, even if this course was unpopular in Germany. It’s equally important that we now learn the lessons to be learnt from the currency crisis. The EU must not be damaged, nor should it become a transfer union. I’m working for this and, incidentally, that’s why it’s so important to visit small and medium-sized EU countries …

… something which is sometimes scoffed at.

That reveals uncertainty about the new dynamics within the EU following the Lisbon Treaty. National interests in Europe can only be implemented with the support of these countries. That’s another reason for dealing with all member states with respect and as equals. It’s in our own interests.

What’s your assessment of the start of the Middle East talks?

The talks are taking place under very difficult circumstances, so the fact that they even got started has to be seen as a success. Unfortunately there are many prepared to use violence to prevent this process being successful. I’m therefore merely cautiously optimistic about how the talks will proceed. We have to strengthen the moderate forces. For only negotiations can foster confidence and a readiness to accept the other side’s standpoint.

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As for [reform of] the Bundeswehr, this is not just about conscription. What does the Foreign Minister have to say about NATO’s fears that Germany won’t be able to fulfil its alliance obligations in future?

In the debate about Bundeswehr reform, I’ll ensure that we can fulfil our international obligations in full. We can’t allow doubts to arise about our ability to honour our obligations within the Alliance. The Bundeswehr must continue to live up to the security challenges facing our country. However, it’s not just size that counts, but also efficient, modern structures. I’m certain the Minister of Defence agrees with me.

In the medium term, don’t Europeans have to reach a point where military capabilities are divided?

For reasons of cost alone, we have to think about that. Less expenditure with the same level of security requires a division of labour within the EU. I’ve already spoken about concrete projects for greater cooperation in foreign and security policy with my colleagues from Poland and France.

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